BRISTOL — After almost a decade of helping shape a proposed town plan, the Bristol Planning Commission may have considered the document for the last time on Tuesday.
At its monthly meeting, the planning commission unanimously OK’d the 42 revisions proposed by the selectboard.
For the past two months, the selectboard has scrutinized the document. After a public hearing and a handful of public discussions about the proposed plan, the board proposed 42 revisions to the document. In keeping with state statutes, the selectboard sent it back to the planning commission for its analysis and an ensuing report.
None of the planning commission members had any glaring issues with the proposed changes, and Ken Weston and John Elder thanked the board for what they said was an oversight on the planning commission’s part.
When the planning commission submitted the plan to the selectboard in March, there was no policy statement in the plan prohibiting resource extraction in the downtown Village Planning Area, which has been a key element of this new town plan draft.
Selectwoman Carol Wells flagged this omission as an issue before the first of the selectboard’s public hearings on the plan in May. A policy statement prohibiting extraction is important because policy statements in the proposed town plan would carry the document’s legal weight.
Under the article within the plan, titled “Interpreting the Plan,” it states: “In certain settings, such as during Board of Adjustment hearings or Act 250 proceedings, policy statements should serve as the basis for determining a project’s conformance with the plan. While other sections of the plan, in particular the narrative sections and goal statements, provide useful context for understanding the policies, it is the policies alone that serve as the final statement regarding the town’s position.”
The selectboard added a policy statement for resource extraction under the land-use section of the draft plan — policy statement 13-I — that states: “Extraction will not be allowed in the Village Planning Area.”
Weston thanked the board on Tuesday for this correction.
“We should thank them … for what was an oversight on our part,” he said. “I think we missed putting (extraction prohibition) into our policies, and we should thank them for recognizing that … to me, that’s a major thing.”
Elder agreed with Weston.
“It’s the single most important thing,” he said.
Moving ahead with the town plan, the selectboard plans to review the document at their July 30 meeting. This meeting will likely be the last time the board will seriously consider citizen input on the plan, as the board indicated earlier this month when they approved the proposed changes.
After its July 30 meeting, the board will then hold two public hearings on the plan. Those meetings are tentatively set for Aug. 27 and Sept. 10.
The board is aiming to present the proposed town plan to voters at this year’s general election, where townspeople would either approve or reject the document.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at firstname.lastname@example.org.